Clint Smith in Paris Review:
“Suppose the only Negro who survived some centuries hence was the Negro painted by white Americans in the novels and essays they have written. What would people in a hundred years say of black Americans?” This is the question posed by W. E. B. Du Bois in his lecture “Criteria of Negro Art.” The remarks were made at the 1926 NAACP annual meeting in Chicago and later published as part of a multi-issue series titled “The Negro in Art” in The Crisis, the NAACP’s official magazine. Du Bois gave the speech at a ceremony honoring the contributions of the eminent author, editor, and historian Carter G. Woodson. Woodson had made it his life’s work to document the positive cultural, social, and political contributions black Americans had made to the development of the United States. He did so in an effort to combat the empty but popular rhetoric of those who suggested that black people had no history, no culture, and had nothing to add to the country beyond the labor of their bodies. That same year, Woodson developed Negro History Week, the precursor to what would eventually become Black History Month, an extension of his effort to illuminate black contributions to the American project. And while Du Bois sought to honor Woodson in his remarks, he also used the opportunity to espouse his own beliefs regarding the role and importance of black artists as America wrestled with the evolution of white supremacy only a generation after the end of slavery.
More here. (Note: At least one post throughout the month of February will be devoted to Black History Month. The theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness)